Siemens

Further to last week’s timeline on the setting up of Irish Water (as it pertained to Denis O’Brien, Phil Hogan, etc). Some doubts were expressed about the merits of Siemens’ bid to supply water meters to the State.

Siemens had offered a deal that reportedly included ‘free installation’.

This was nonsense, we were told in not so few words.

So we sent Bodger back to the National Library scoured the ‘net’ to find out more details about that Siemens bid…

October 22, 2010: RTÉ Six One News reported that Siemens had offered to fund the installation of water meters in 1.1 million households nationwide and that the then Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, welcomed a meeting between the Government and the company.

RTÉ journalist Will Goodbody reported:

Like it or not the Government says domestic water charges are coming. The only question is when and how the system will work. The choice – a flat rate charge on each household or the introduction of water meters. Around 1.1million homes will need water meters installed if metering of fresh water is to be established. The estimated cost of doing that is around five to six hundred million euro. But, right now, that’s money that the Government doesn’t have. But today multinational engineering company Siemens confirmed it’s interested in funding the project and is seeking a meeting with the Minister For Finance about it. Siemens would lend the money needed to install the meters with its costs ultimately being paid from savings made by the Government’s water services programme. And if such a scheme could be arranged it would mean the cash-strapped Government could introduce water charges even sooner.

April 22, 2012: It was reported that, once in Government, Environment Minister Phil Hogan didn’t pursue a 2010 offer from Siemens CEO Werner Kruckow to pay the €810million cost to install water meters in Irish homes.

The Sunday Independent reported:

“Siemens proposed funding the fitting of water meters through an investment to be paid back through savings made in the multibillion-euro cost of providing water services once the meters were installed. Instead the National Pensions Reserve Fund will be raided for €450m to pay some of the bill. The loan from its coffers will have to be paid back with interest at commercial rates, Mr Hogan has admitted, which would be at least €350m. Added to the estimated €810m installation fee, that brings the national water meter fitting bill to well over €1bn.”

“Siemens told the Sunday Independent that no formal offer was made by the department following discussions with officials.”

“Asked why it hadn’t pursued the Siemens offer the Department of the Environment didn’t supply an explanation, but said it had chosen the Irish Water option after 12 months of discussions with stakeholders as “the optimal organisational form for water services delivery in Ireland”.”

December 10, 2013: In the Seanad, during the committee stage of the Water Services (No. 2) Bill 2013, Independent Senator Sean Barrett addressed Junior Environment Minister Fergus O’Dowd about the offer from Siemens.

He said:

“What is the approved water charges plan? We do not know how much water will cost or the amount of the free allowance that will be granted. I am not trying to make a wrong analogy, but a used car salesman has to tell his customers how much he is charging. The Government has been far too coy. It is time to put the numbers on the table in order that we can approve the water charges plan. In 2010 there were discussions with the Siemens company on its offer to install meters for nothing. More than three years later the dance of the seven veils has gone on for long enough. There is too much concealment and hugger mugger. Put the numbers on the table and let the people make their decision.”

January 22, 2014: Minister O’Dowd returned to the Seanad to field questions about Irish Water. Independent Senator Fergal Quinn asked about the Siemens offer.

He said:

“Is there an understanding with regard to the costs that obtain in this area? Siemens offered to invest €800 million in a public private partnership relating to installing 1.8 million water meters in Irish homes. The Government turned down that offer and I do not understand why. Perhaps the Minister of State will indicate why it did so.”

And there the trail went cold.

We contacted Senator Quinn, asking if he had received a reply to his question.

He wrote: “No, sadly that question wasn’t answered. Minister Fergus O’Dowd said that decision was made before he was appointed Minister.”

Hmm.

More to follow.

Previously: Thicker Than Water